Page images


It is solely owing to the preposterous method of inquiry, above described, that the holy records of our faith have, very injuriously, been supposed to be fa loosely worded, as, in fact, to countenance opposite opinions, and to justify the most fantastic doctrines.

But let us for a moment reflect, and let the reflection teach us wisdom, that the fame phænomena of nature, which were brought in evidence of the figments of remote antiquity, were also applied to support the equally vain hypotheses of more modern times. The laws of the material world, in consequence of the introduction of a better method of investigation, are, however, now demonstrated to be consistent, fimple, and invariable, affording a just and easy explication of every natural appearance. If a similar process be observed, similar success may reasonably be expected to be our reward, when we explore the sacred sources of religious truth.

That unity of sentiment, respecting the leading truths of revelation, which is the natural result of a sober and unbiassed search, conducted under the influence of the chris


leads to unity of religious worship; and unity of worship, thus circumstanced, to christian peace.*

I close these pages with my letter to my late diocesan.

To the right rev. the bishop of Norwich.

( Copy.)

[ocr errors]

I think it proper to give you

this previous information, that I propose to resign the rectory of Homersfield and vicarage of Flixton, into your lordship’s hands, upon the 29th or 30th of the present month (September.) As the motives which induce me to em


* In this progress, from the investigation of scriptural truth to its final consequence, the establishment of chrif. tian peace,


appears to me to be effentially necessary, that an open avowal of our persuasion should accompany a change of sentiment in every instance of impor. tance, more especially in that confequential article, the object of religious worship. And, therefore, I cannot but highly approve the general principle, on which Mr. Lindsey's plan of a reformed liturgy is founded, as well as that particular ceremonial, which he has given to the public, and continues to conduct with so much propriety and success.

brace this resolution, may poflibly be misconstrued, it will not, I trust, be thought impertinent, if I state them to your lordship.

In the firit place, I think it necessary to assure your lordship, that, although Iesteemed it to be my duty to take an active part in the late petition of the clergy, the principles maintained in that just remonstrance, do not, in my apprehension, appear to lay me under any obligation to relinquish my prefer station.

The author of the “ Confessional," my lord, had convinced me of the unlawfulness and inexpediency of requiring a subscription to systematic articles of faith and doctrine, from the teachers of the gospel in a protestant church.

My own observation, in the university of Cambridge, further tended to satisfy me with respect to the impropriety of such a requisition: and the visible neglect of the study of the scriptures, in this age and country, seemed, in a great measure, to be derived from that restraint of the exercise of private judgment, which is the unavoidable consequence of this unedifying imposition.

[ocr errors]

to any

With these convictions, it was impossible for me to decline engaging with those dirtinguished friends of religious liberty, who associated for the purpose of solliciting, for themselves and their brethren of the church of England, an exemption from the obligation of declaring or subscribing their assent

formulary of doctrine, which should be proposed as explanatory of the word of God.

It appeared to me, to be a sufficient reason for such application, that the doctrines, contained in the thirty-nine articles, being the deductions of frail and fallible men, and expressed in unscriptural terms, were essentially differenced, in point of authority, from those holy scriptures, to which we have professed an absolute and unreserved submission, as the only rule of religious faith and practice ; and that the requisition of afsent to them

was, eventually, subversive of the right of private judgment; a right, on which every protestant church was founded, and, the exercise of which, our own church, in particular, in one of her forms of ordination, not only allows us, but injoins.

It also appeared evident to me, that the inquiry, whether or no the thirty-nine articles express the genuine sense of scripture, was a question of a very different nature from that, to which the petitioners invited the attention of their brethren ; that persons of the most opposite opinions, with respect to the doctrine of the articles, might unite in a declaration, that every attempt to effect an uniformity of sentiment concerning the sense of scripture, by other means than the force of argument, and rational conviction, was utterly unwarrantable, and bore too striking a resemblance to that spirit of intolerance, which forms the distinguishing character of anti-christian Rome: and, lastly, that many members of our church might be truly sensible of the inexpediency of requiring this subscription; might address a competent tribunal with a view of effecting an abolition of the practice, and yet continue to hold and to accept preferment, without violating the dictates of conscience, and with great advantage to the christian cause.

My objections, my lord, to the accepta ing and the holding of preferment in the


« PreviousContinue »